Secret or Surprise Wedding Ceremony/Vow Renewals are becoming increasingly common; they come in two forms:
- the secret is kept from the guests attending
- the secret is kept from one half of the couple involved
To me, Number 1. sounds like a wonderful way to be married in front of friends and family without having to engage in a heap of complicated wedding planning, and possibly avoiding unwanted expectations/drama/politics too. It has the feel of an elopement but with your family and friends still present; a sense of independence held within a bubble of love. Something I would love to be a part of!
Number 2. is not something I offer as a Celebrant.
I want to take a moment to explain why…
It is a beautiful thing to see folks declaring their love or renewing their promises to one another in ceremony; the celebration of their journey is both moving and inspiring. While I don’t agree with the law that this process needs to be ‘solemn’, I do recognise the seriousness inherent in the commitments being made; these are sacred promises that have repercussions beyond the present moment.
Asking a person to speak sacred words and make sacred vows without their prior knowledge presumes their full agreement. It places literal words in their mouth and this may not sit well with everyone. Of course we hope to know our significant others better than most; surely we would know if they will be happy to participate or not? This presumption is problematic for me as it reduces the individual to someone elses’s idea of them, rather than their actual (and likely more complex) self.
Also, would the surprised person feel able to say no or express doubts or uncertainties when standing before a crowd of beloved friends, family and a Celebrant? Though they are there to support and with the very best intentions, their presence is also a pressure, an expectation that some people would be unwilling or unable to disappoint.
By not taking part in the creation of their wedding or vow renewal ceremony, a person may feel a less connected to the intentions at the heart of it. Not through any lack of desire or ability on the part of anyone involved; simply because their unique ideas, words and flavour have not been added to the mix.
It is why so many folks turn to Celebrants in the first place! They want to say and do things that resonate with them, that are deeply personal; instead of repeating words and actions prescribed by some other person or tradition.
As one of my wedding couples, Meg and Louis, from 2019 so beautifully put it:
“It was so important to us to feel that the ceremony and the words we spoke belonged to us.”
I involve clients as much as possible in the creation of their ceremony because I believe that we are more able to fully embody the meaning of our words and actions having previously considered them; coming to accept their truth internally.
The outward expression – speaking the words and performing the actions – gives our inner feelings a form and a place in the World and the Web of Life.
Every ceremony I conduct is sacred and every word spoken and ritual act undertaken is setting an intention for the future.
A Wedding or Vow Renewal is an intricate weaving of threads that binds people together; one that is uniquely crafted to ensure their promises have meaning and repercussions that resonate far beyond the day.
There is a power to vows and ritual that transcends day-to-day words and actions; its why we hold ceremonies in the first place! They activate our subconscious and are designed to have a deep emotional and internal impact; tying our decisions into the fabric of the Web of Life. To undertake such a thing lightly, or without prior knowledge, means some of that inherent power is diluted or lost.
It is my firm belief that, for a ceremony to embody and reflect the love at its heart, that love needs to be described and expressed by everyone involved. The words, the tone and the energy must be drawn from all sources so that, when they are joined together through ritual and promise, that joining is strong and resonant… because it has already started happening inside of them.
I fully appreciate that, for some, surprising their Beloved with a Secret Ceremony is an act of romance, love and joy and I fully respect their choices and wish them and their Celebrants good luck in their endeavours!
I am not saying that secret ceremonies are wrong… but I am the wrong Celebrant to ask to conduct one.
Would you take part in a Secret Ceremony? How much would you like to be involved in creating your vows and rituals?